Morgan Park’s Marcus Watson (22) drives to the basket against Springfield Southeast. Worsom Robinson/For the Sun-Times.

This season’s 35 best basketball games

SHARE This season’s 35 best basketball games
SHARE This season’s 35 best basketball games

The Thanksgiving tournaments are over and some high stakes holiday tournament games will be played out in late December. But there are some tantalizing regular-season showdowns in conference play and shootouts to get ready for this winter.

With a combination of talent on display and the importance of these matchups, here are the 35 in-state games you should get in a gym to see during this 2018-2019 high school basketball season.

Leo at Loyola • Nov. 30

The Chicago Catholic League kicks off with a bang as two teams ranked in the City/Suburban Hoops Report’s top 25 go at it, along with two of the more under-appreciated players in the senior class ––Leo’s Fred Cleveland and Loyola’s Connor Barrett.

Uplift vs. Evanston • Dec. 1

(Chicago Elite Classic at Wintrust Arena)

Markese Jacobs and Uplift get an early-season shot at one of the state’s elite teams and get to play it on a big stage. This is the best in-state matchup at this year’s Chicago Elite Classic.

St. Viator vs. Oswego East •Dec. 8

(Team Rose Shootout at Mt. Carmel)

First, it’s a battle featuring two top 25 teams. Plus, it’s a trio of Division I seniors on display in RayJ Dennis of Oswego East and the St. Viator tandem of Trey Calvin and Jeremiah Hernandez. It’s also nice spotlight game for Oswego East and its star, the Boise State recruit.

Brother Rice vs. Uplift •Dec. 8

(Team Rose Shootout at Mount Carmel)

The two highest ranked senior guards in the state meet up as DePaul-bound Markese Jacobs and Uplift square off with Loyola recruit Marquise Kennedy and Brother Rice.

Bloom vs. Morgan Park • Dec. 8

(Team Rose Shootout at Mt. Carmel)

You will find four of the City/Suburban Hoops Report’s top 10 junior prospects (and five of the top 20) in this game: Morgan Park’s Adam Miller and Marcus Watson and Bloom’s Martice Mitchell, Keshawn Williams and Dante Maddox, Jr.

Bloomington vs. Leo • Dec. 9

(Team Rose Shootout at Mt. Carmel)

A state-ranked caliber team from central Illinois, led by athletic big man Chris Payton, will get a big test from Leo. Fred Cleveland leads Leo but the Payton-DeChaun Anderson matchup inside will be intriguing.

Simeon at Bogan •Dec. 11

The first big city test for both teams in what has evolved into a feisty and fun South Side showdown over the past decade, especially when the matchup is at Bogan.

Bloom at Homewood-Flossmoor • Dec. 14

An early-season clash featuring two the very best in the south suburbs. This could be an early-season springboard for the winner.

Geneva at St. Charles East •Dec. 14

The new DuKane Conference should be a heck of a race with these two old Upstate Eight foes playing central roles. Both Geneva and St. Charles East won Thanksgiving tournament titles last week.

Benet at DePaul Prep • Dec. 15

East Suburban Catholic Conference vs. Chicago Catholic League. Both these teams began the season in the City/Suburban Hoops Report’s preseason top 10 and are off to quick, impressive starts to their season.

Leo at DePaul Prep •Dec. 21

Leo’s tough early-season schedule continues with this Proviso West Holiday Tournament tune-up. With early-season road trips to Loyola, DePaul and St. Rita, along with a showdown with Bloomington, we’ll know a lot about this Leo team by holiday tournament time.

Waukegan at Marian Catholic • Dec. 21

A couple of heavyweights from different geographical areas –– north suburbs vs. south suburbs –– meet in a non-conference battle of preseason ranked teams.

Curie at Bogan • Jan. 8

The Public League’s new conference alignment last year brought Red-South power Bogan and Red-Central Curie together. These two top 10 teams feature long, deep rosters full of talent, led by Curie’s DaJuan Gordon and Bogan’s Jeremiah Washington and Rashaun Agee.

Orr at Young • Jan. 11

Don’t discount the defending Class 2A champs yet. Orr, the defending conference champs, and Young have had some good ones in recent years. This will be one of Young’s toughest tests in the Public League’s Red-North/West.

Romeoville at Oswego East •Jan. 11

The 10 teams in the Southwest Prairie Conference meet just once, so this one could turn out to be quite significant. Oswego East is the league favorite. But keep an eye on an emerging Romeoville team that is looking to put last season in the rearview mirror.

Morgan Park vs. DePaul Prep •Jan. 12

(Steve Pappas Shootout at DePaul Prep)

A couple of powers ranked among the City/Suburban Hoops Report’s preseason top 10 with sights set on playing in Peoria hook up in this midseason showdown. Adam Miller and Perry Cowan are just two of the stars to watch.

Evanston vs. Bolingbrook •Jan. 19

(War on the Shore at Evanston)

This year’s War on the Shore is loaded, including New Trier-DePaul Prep and Loyola-St. Viator. But this is the marquee matchup. There will be a lot of perimeter speed and talent on display with Evanston’s Lance Jones (Southern Illinois) and Bolingbrook’s Joseph Yesufu (Drake) and Tyler Cochran (Northern Illinois).

Hillcrest vs. Oak Park •Jan. 19

(Romeoville Shootout)

This is the middle game of the three-game Romeoville Shootout, and it should be a dandy. Both teams have talented balance. There is Hillcrest’s strong guard play and the emerging Dylan West inside, while Oak Park has the senior foursome of Dashon Enoch, Charlie Hoehne, Chase Robinson and Anthony Roberts.

Morgan Park at Simeon •Jan. 24

It doesn’t get much better than this. In addition to the obvious talent on display and the history with these two programs, there is typically drama, intensity and the stakes are high.

Simeon vs. Bolingbrook •Jan. 26

(When Sides Collide Shootout at Glenbard East)

The featured game of this year’s When Sides Collide Shootout at Glenbard East. A fun, top 10 city vs. suburbs showdown between two perennial powers on a neutral floor.

Bloom vs. St. Viator •Jan. 26

(When Sides Collide Shootout at Glenbard East)

This one packs a punch with a pair of ranked teams and favorites in their respective conferences colliding. A great résumé building opportunity for both teams and a whole lot of talent on display for fans, including the Bloom juniors (Keshawn Williams, Dante Maddox, Maurice Mitchell and Donovan Newby) and the St. Viator tandem of Jeremiah Hernandez and Trey Calvin.

Hillcrest at Homewood-Flossmoor •Jan. 26

Who has the best team in the south suburbs? Bloom? Marian Catholic? Hillcrest? H-F? This could help decide that debate, along with being a nice midseason measuring stick for two teams with high expectations.

Geneva at St. Charles East •Feb. 1

The pecking order in the new DuKane Conference begins with Geneva, which has the veteran 1-2 punch of heady point guard Jack McDonald and talented wing Mitch Mascari. St. Charles East, however, has enough weapons and shooting to make some noise.

Simeon vs. Belleville West •Feb. 2

(Bank of O’Fallon Shootout at O’Fallon)

The state’s premier program against the defending state champs and the state’s best player, EJ Liddell, in southern Illinois. That’s some great stuff right there.

Evanston at Oak Park •Feb. 2

Evanston is No. 2 in the preseason; Oak Park began the year at No. 12. A ton of talent on the floor –– young and old. But keep an eye on a super sophomore group in this one, including Evanston’s Blake Peters and Oak Park’s Isaiah Barnes.

St. Rita at Leo • Feb. 8

A couple of Chicago Catholic League teams three miles apart down 79th Street with high hopes this season meet.

Riverside-Brookfield at Aurora Christian • Feb. 11

R-B opened eyes with its run in winning its own Thanksgiving tournament, beating Oak Park and Kenwood along the way. The addition of Aurora Christian to the league gives the Metro Suburban Conference a marquee matchup late in the year.

Loyola at DePaul Prep •Feb. 12

On paper these are arguably the two best teams in the Chicago Catholic League. For the hyperbole it’s great they meet this late in the season.

Stevenson at Waukegan •Feb. 12

Can someone finally unseat Stevenson in the North Suburban Conference? Talented Waukegan is in position to do so and will have this key, late-season game in the Dog Pound.

Leo at Providence St. Mel •Feb. 12

A dandy between two small school powers who have proven they can play with the big boys. But it could be argued that both Class 2A Leo and Class 1A St. Mel are state title contenders in their respective class.

Benet at Notre Dame •Feb. 15

Maybe Notre Dame is a year away from truly contending for the top spot in the ESCC. Nonetheless, this will be a great opportunity this year for a young Dons team in front of what should be a fun atmosphere.

Downers Grove North at Oak Park • Feb. 15

Loaded Oak Park has dominated the West Suburban Silver the past two years. Can a talented DGN, which is off to a 4-0 start and boasts the terrific guard tandem of Trey Boston and Semaj Henderson, be in position this late in the year to create some havoc?

Evanston at New Trier •Feb. 15

Arguably the best rivals in the Chicago area could really mean a lot in this late-season tussle between the top two teams in the Central Suburban League South. New Trier’s enormous size vs. Evanston’s small but fast lineup adds intrigue.

Homewood-Flossmoor at Bolingbrook •Feb. 15

This will receive a lot of attention late in the season and deservedly so with so much potentially at stake. H-F is ranked and the defending Southwest Suburban Blue champs. Bolingbrook’s senior guard tandem of Tyler Cochran and Joseph Yesufu will be looking to unseat the champs. A whole lot of length, athleticism and speed on the floor in this one.

St. Viator at Benet • Feb. 20

Might the final game on the ESCC slate for both teams decide the conference title? Might the final game on the ESCC slate for both teams decide the conference title? St. Viator’s Division I duo of Trey Calvin and Jerry Hernandez are looking to repeat in the ESCC.

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